DIARY – STRATFORD UPON AVON – SUNDAY 19 JULY 2009
The Martin Keighley trained King Ozzy returns to the Winners’ Enclosure
4 rides for Choc at Stratford Upon Avon today, although there was a threat of heavy showers. It was Ladies Day at the course too.
I left home just after 10:00, travelling via Hemel Hempstead (the Belted Galloway herd was in their usual field). I encountered a cloud burst just west of Aylesbury (before Waddesdon). And it was raining most of the way as I drove northwards up the M40 too. There was no hold-up at the Bishopton roundabout today so my route to the course, via Shottery, went smoothly.
I noticed Andrew Thornton, having arrived before 13:00, set out for a run around the course with a colleague from the Weighing Room. The sun, having come out for a period, was replaced by a heavy downpour. It would be sunshine and heavy showers throughout the afternoon, culminating in a torrential downpour just before 17:30!
Choc’s mount in the first race was the Richard Phillips trained Khumbu. His assistant, Gordy Clarkson (the man who originally bestowed the name of ‘Chocolate’ upon the lovely Robert) was on hand to remove the horse’s rug before Choc was legged up into the saddle and exited onto the course.
The start of this race was at the beginning of the home straight, so was just over two circuits in length. Two horses were reluctant to line up, Cave of the Giant which was led in, and Zimbabwe which almost refused to start at all, setting off so slowly that he was lengths behind the others and was pulled up having jumped just two flights!
Initially Choc’s mount, Khumbu, was lined up right against the tape and planted himself as the other horses took a turn to come in again. Choc managed to turn him around but had lost his position so set off in mid-field.
The field was led off by Bathwick Man, with Three Lions, Rock Me and the grey, Aberdeen Park prominent. Jug of Punch was soon ridden along, and became tailed off although he did finish the race!
Down the back straight first time, Choc pushed Khumbu up on the outside of the field, but the horse had to be ridden after the 7th obstacle and became tailed off before being pulled up before the 9th flight. Cave of the Giants fell at the 9th, hampering Old Peak Road.
Bathwick Man led the field until after 2 out, with Aberdeen Park then taking up the running. Despite making an error at the last flight, the latter went on to win by 2˝ lengths.
Having pulled his mount up, Choc was the last to return, Gordy Clarkson and also trainer Martin Keighley going onto the course to help unsaddle the horse. It was at this time that the next heavy rain shower decided to commence, and I was forced to seek shelter, although I did hang around long enough to see Choc return from speaking with Richard Phillips and the horse’s connections in the Parade Ring before he returned to the Weighing Room.
It was soon time for the second race of the day.
The race being just over 2 miles in distance, started over in the far corner of the track. Bet Noir’s jockey, A Freeman (sorry I don’t know his first name), had to adjust his mount’s saddle at the start.
Then they were off. Jethro Wheeler led them away, with North Walk, Tora Petcha and Feeling prominent. General Mayo made a mistake at the 2nd flight, with How Realee blundering at the 3rd, where Tora Petcha wasn’t fluent either. North Walk took over the lead from Jethro Wheeler at the 6th, but blundered and was headed by Tora Petcha at the 3rd last, the latter going on to win by 1˝ lengths. Feeling stayed on to finish 2nd, with Bet Noir 3rd and Just Mossie 4th.
Bet Noir’s rider (having finished 3rd) fell off after the winning post and had to be attended to by the doctor. He was stood down for the remainder of the day but, although he could not weigh in, the stewards decided that as no other horses/jockeys had been involved in the incident, the horse was allowed to keep 3rd place.
There were no bids for the winner in the auction following the race, and none of the other horses were claimed.
I took up my usual position beside the Parade Ring, near to the winning post and watched the horses arrive and the jockeys mount before I settled by the course-side rails. Choc’s mount in this race was the Sir Robert Ogden owned, Peter Bowen trained, Coc Hardi.
This race started at the far end of the home straight. The favourite was Tot of the Knar, having her first run for Tim Vaughan’s yard, 2nd favourite was Coq Hardi, 3rd favourite was the Paul Nicholls runner, a flashy dark bay called Just Amazing with Christian Williams aboard.
Time for yet another very heavy shower as the 5 competitors milled around at the start. Having positioned myself just past the water jump, my view was partially obscured by a large umbrella and I had to move further up the course. However, in the event, the first photo I took was blurred, as I was struggling to hold up my own umbrella at the time!
Then they were off. Just Amazing led off, with Choc in second, Tot of the Knar jumping the first awkwardly at the rear of the field. By the 7th obstacle, the latter had improved into 3rd position. Coq Hardi was not jumping particularly smoothly, and was being pushed along by 4 out. He blundered at the 3rd last, the open-ditch, Choc going to the buckle end and almost losing his balance. This enabled Tot of the Knar to overtake him. The other two runners were well behind at this stage.
Just Amazing was still bowling on in front, well clear and went on the win by a distance. Tot of the Knar finished 2nd, with Choc driving out his mount to just hold on to 3rd place on the line from the fast finishing Shenanigan.
By the time the race was completed, the sun had appeared again.
I walked around to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc arrive back. Quite rightly he appeared disappointed with Coq Hardi’s run today, as he was shaking his head as he spoke to trainer Peter Bowen.
Once Choc had returned to the Weighing Room I returned to the area between the Parade Ring and the course-side rails in preparation for the next race of the day.
The start of this race was over in the far corner of the track.
Then they were off. Christian Williams sent the Paul Nicholls trained runner, Classic Swain, into the lead, although he was not always jumping fluently. Chalentina chased the leader, with Consulate in touch in 3rd position. In rear, Seader was hampered at the first.
Classic Swain, who started at 3-1 on favourite, was being pushed along by the 6th flight, Twill drawing alongside to challenge him before the latter faded. Having repelled Twill, Classic Swain then hit 2 out, by which time Consulate had joined him. Despite a lack of fluency over both the final 2 obstacles, Consulate went on to win by a distance of 1˝ lengths on the line. Classic Swain held on to 2nd, with Seader 13 lengths away in 3rd.
By the time the horses started to arrive in the Parade Ring ahead of the 4th race, it had clouded over yet again and was spitting with rain. Martin Keighley’s King Ozzy was the first horse to appear, the handler making a joke about umbrellas as he walked by leading the horse! It was also now time for Choc’s 3rd ride of the day.
For this particular race, I positioned myself beside the rails further down the course so as to get a better view of the final flight.
The start of this race was away to our right, at beginning of the stretch of course running away from the stands.
There were a number of runners causing problems before the start. Initially the grey, Sagarich, and Laconicos were reluctant to join the other horses, but eventually the former trotted over, and the latter was led to join them. The field took a turn. Then it was Panadin which planted himself, so the field took another turn. Panadin still refused to budge, so they went without him, having been withdrawn.
The field was led off by Sagarich, followed by Champion De Sou. King Ozzy was keen in 3rd, initially racing alongside Choc’s mount, Phar Again. As they turned into the straight for the first time, the fancied Bankstair and favourite Classic Shot travelled in mid-field, joint 2nd favourite Danish Monarch was held up in rear.
Always prominent, King Ozzy took the lead from Sagarich approaching 2 out and, although there appeared to be 5 other horses in with a chance as they turned into the home straight, King Ozzy appeared the most likely winner as he approached the last, going on to win by 1˝ lengths from Danish Monarch and Crazy Bold.
Having raced keenly, Phar Again weakened after the 7th flight and became tailed off. He was pulled up before 2 out. It is at this stage that I have to confess I didn’t see Choc arrive back at the finish, as I went to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the triumphant King Ozzy come back in! Sorry Choc!!!
As King Ozzy was led in, Martin stopped the horse to remove a twisted front shoe, before they walked across the Parade Ring to the Winners’ Enclosure.
Having taken some photos (one of them above), I introduced myself to Martin’s wife Belinda, who had brought their son Freddie to the races today. Evidently she had not originally intended to come along, but a last minute phone call had been made to persuade her, and luck was on their side. This was also their first Stratford winner!
It was then time for the final ‘professional’ race of the day. Choc’s mount in this event was the JP McManus owned, Jonjo O’Neill trained, Tempsford. AP McCoy was riding at Newton Abbot today, so presumably Jonjo had gone to the Devon fixture too. Tempsford is the name of a village in Bedfordshire, which I drive past as I travel along the A1 to reach Huntingdon, it’s just south of the Black Cat roundabout.
The start of this event was away to our left, at the start of the home straight, the race being just over 2 circuits in distance.
Then they were off. The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Paddy Brennan ridden, front-running Scalloway led them off, followed by Black Anshan. Alfie’s Sun chased the leader and soon took over 2nd position. Tempsford was held up in mid-field, as was Flashy Sir at the back of the field.
The Tim Vaughan trained favourite, House of Bourbon, ran disappointingly, blundering badly 3 out and was pulled up.
Alfie’s Sun took over the lead at the 11th obstacle, and was soon in command, going on to win by 4 lengths. Tempsford had made headway by the 8th, but didn’t jump the 4th last particularly well. Flashy Sir, despite making a couple of mistakes and being initially outpaced, just caught Tempsford on the line to take 2nd place by a nose.
I went around to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc come back in. After trying to undo the horse’s girth but without success, Choc stood back and let the stable-lad have a go, although the latter was also had difficulty undoing it! Eventually Choc headed for the Weighing Room for the final time today.
After racing there were 2 pony races – the first race was for younger children on smaller ponies (138 cm and under - 13.2 hands and under for those who prefer imperial measurements … like me) – the competitors included Paul Nicholls’ daughter, Megan. There were two non-runners in the first. The ponies took ages to walk down to the start, with one of the competitors a long way behind the others. I stayed by the course-side rails for this event.
Then it was time for the second race, for ponies of 148 cm and under (14.2 hands and under). One of Nigel Twiston-Davies’ sons was competing in this race and his father and new business partner Carl Llewellyn were in attendance. All 12 ponies competed.
It was pouring with rain by the time the final race started, so I sought shelter underneath the building, beside the Tote office. As soon as the ponies crossed the line I set off to my car. I was just settling in, having removed my wet raincoat, my jacket and put on a cardigan in preparation for the drive home, when the heavens opened. The rain was torrential and, as it was almost impossible to see out through the windscreen, I decided to wait in the car park until it had passed. I noticed a number of people who had got caught out, as they were soaked to the skin! Whilst waiting, I rummaged in my glove compartment and found two recently purchased Snickers bars, which I consumed. It was then time to set off home.
Remembering last Sunday’s traffic problems on the road leading to the M40, this Sunday I set off towards Stratford town centre, turning right at the first roundabout and skirting the town until I reached the A422 and then headed for Banbury. This week I shall mention the Redwings Horse Sanctuary http://www.redwings.org.uk which has one of its visitors’ centres at Oxhill, which I passed on the way, and the beautiful village of Wroxton near Banbury.
As the weather still looked threatening, I decided to avoid the M40 motorway and ventured out into the great unknown of Northamptonshire and northern Buckinghamshire! As mentioned on previous occasions, I don’t have satnav in my car, but I can recall seeing the route on a map and the directions to Milton Keynes are very well signposted. My only surprise was that Milton Keynes extended further west than expected (or perhaps I should say the constituent town of Bletchley), and I was convinced I’d missed the A5. However, I was soon heading south along it towards Hertfordshire ... making it feel more like a day out at Towcester races in fact!
I arrived home just before 20:00, ate tea, then uploaded my photos and wrote my blog before retiring to bed.